At U.S. Track Trials, former Rainier Beach star Ginnie Powell-Crawford learns pain and perseverance
Powell-Crawford missed out on the Olympics by .04 seconds, but maintains her spirit of resolve.
Seattle Times staff columnist
On the wrong side of her Olympic dream, Ginnie Powell-Crawford stood up last week. She couldn't cry or hide or stay "really into myself" anymore. She had an honor to receive.
It felt weird because, only three days earlier, Crawford wasn't able to claim the prize she coveted most. She didn't make the United States Olympic team in the 100-meter hurdles, and adding to the pain, she placed fourth and missed qualifying by one spot. Crawford finished just .04 seconds behind third-place finisher Lolo Jones on June 23. And now, after 72 tearful hours, she was back home in Seattle, wearing a dress and heels, needing to say something publicly.
Oh, she didn't want to talk.
But, oh, she had to.
Crawford, the former Rainier Beach High School and USC athlete, came to the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club for the announcement that her framed track jersey would be hung in the club, joining Brandon Roy and Martell Webster as the only others to be honored in this manner. She was also there to detail a Healthy Lifestyles program partnership with the club, one that she and husband, Shawn, are donating $5,000 to get started.
However, the eloquent track star didn't realize she would reach a new level of understanding about one of the most elusive and emotion-wrenching pursuits in sports.
On the wrong side of her Olympic dream, Crawford stood up, stood strong and stood determined. Last weekend, after her disappointment, the 28-year-old expressed doubt about continuing her track career. Her stomach knotted after that race and pain shot through her abs as she couldn't handle the heartbreak. She had now lost in the finals of the past two Olympic trials. She'll be 32 when the Rio Games come around in 2016. Maybe it was her time to go.
Or maybe she needed time to heal.
"This is my life," a rejuvenated Crawford said last week. "This is what I do. I've learned a lot about strength and perseverance the past few days. What if I was fighting life and death? Am I going to give up and break, or am I going to fight for my life?
"There's no doubt I'll try again in four years. And I'll try another four years after that if I don't make it. Failure is not an option. Being defeated is not an option."
As Crawford spoke, she opened a window to a competitor's soul. In an Olympic year, we tend to think of victory only through the prism of gold, silver and bronze. But the Olympic spirit isn't limited to random excellence every four years. It's about the grind within those four years, the persistence an athlete must have to keep chasing a dream without the fanfare and prestige that accompanies high-profile, millionaire sports stars.
This summer, thousands of athletes will watch the London Olympics feeling like their dream sucker-punched them. Then, like Crawford, they will stand up, wipe away their tears and recommit to a lifestyle that offers few promises and near-inevitable despair.
If they ever make it to the Olympics, it will be worth it. And if they don't, they will have achieved a level of conviction that most of us couldn't possibly imagine.
For Crawford, health and fitness matter so much because she lost her diabetic sister three years ago. She cries different tears when remembering that.
"I was going good," Crawford said, wiping at her face. "Oh, well. I've been crying every day about not making this team."
Crawford needed this event at the Boys & Girls Club. It helped that she had to resurface so soon after the trials. She was reminded of her incredible accomplishments to date and of the joy she has for track and of how inspired she gets whenever she thinks of her idol, the late Florence Griffith-Joyner. She also remembered that she's not alone.
"I think it's helped my spirit," Crawford said. "I've smiled so many smiles. So many people say inspiring things. Really, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all of them.
"Usually, you're thinking that no one wants this as bad as you. Well, they don't, but they want it badly for you. That matters, too. That gives me strength."
Before an audience that included King County Councilmember Larry Gossett, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and broadcaster Kevin Calabro, Crawford was captivating and articulate. If she never wins another track meet again, you know that she will be just fine. But that's not an option, of course.
"I'm not going to do something else," Crawford said. "I'll be at the world championships next year."
That is, without a doubt, the Olympic spirit.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @JerryBrewer
About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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